SITREP - September 21st, 2013
On Friday afternoon, the House passed a bill to fund the government at current levels without providing funding to implement or enforce the President’s healthcare law. Supporters of the law argue that this is just a silly political stunt – that we’re just trying to oppose anything the President puts forward. I can’t speak for anybody else, but what I can tell you is where I stand on repealing, replacing, and defunding (if necessary) Obamacare.
Regardless of how you feel about the law’s objectives and how it intends to achieve those objectives, the actual implementation of the law so far has been a disaster. It is already resulted in hours being cut back for thousands and thousands of Americans. It’s resulted in dropped coverage. It’s resulted in fundamental changes to the availability of healthcare services in some parts of the country. And it’s already run out of money in some of the most highly-touted parts of the program – the pre-existing condition fund is a prime example.
For my part, I don’t think the individual mandate is constitutional. I don’t think gimmicky accounting for the program is prudent. I don’t think the federal government has any place trying to manage the entire healthcare system. And I don’t need to wait around and see the calamity unfold to prove to me that the thing is going to be a train wreck. It already is.
But don’t take my word for it. I’m a conservative Republican and it’s safe to say I’m a bit… skeptical of of the President. But the labor unions aren’t exactly led by conservative Republicans. They’re led by President Obama’s most vocal, active, and loyal supporters. They helped get him elected – twice. They pushed hard for passage of the “Affordable Care Act” and they were in the room as the law was being negotiated. What do they think about the law? Well, read for yourself. Below is a letter from the leaders of some of the nation’s largest unions highlighting their concerns about the impact that Obamacare is going to have… on their workers and the American middle class:
Dear Leader Reid and Leader Pelosi:
When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.
Like millions of other Americans, our members are front-line workers in the American economy. We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. We have also been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.
Now this vision has come back to haunt us.
Since the ACA was enacted, we have been bringing our deep concerns to the Administration, seeking reasonable regulatory interpretations to the statute that would help prevent the destruction of non-profit health plans. As you both know first-hand, our persuasive arguments have been disregarded and met with a stone wall by the White House and the pertinent agencies. This is especially stinging because other stakeholders have repeatedly received successful interpretations for their respective grievances. Most disconcerting of course is last week’s huge accommodation for the employer community—extending the statutorily mandated “December 31, 2013” deadline for the employer mandate and penalties.
Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios:
First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.
Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. These non-profit plans are governed jointly by unions and companies under the Taft-Hartley Act. Our health plans have been built over decades by working men and women. Under the ACA as interpreted by the Administration, our employees will treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans.
And finally, even though non-profit plans like ours won’t receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they’ll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.
On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.
We believe that there are common-sense corrections that can be made within the existing statute that will allow our members to continue to keep their current health plans and benefits just as you and the President pledged. Unless changes are made, however, that promise is hollow.
We continue to stand behind real health care reform, but the law as it stands will hurt millions of Americans including the members of our respective unions.
We are looking to you to make sure these changes are made.
James P. Hoffa
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
While the unions may be asking for a special exemption just for themselves, we believe that the law isn't going to be good for the entire country and so we're going to keep pushing for an exemption for the entire country. At the end of the day, we’re not ready to give up and just accept that Obamacare is the law of the land and that there is nothing we can do about it. Congress still controls the purse strings. We still get to amend, repeal, replace, delay, cancel, adjust, modify laws and draft new laws. Our Founding Fathers made sure that we had a robust legislative branch in this country and that it would be the people’s representatives who had the final say. That’s precisely the constitutional prerogative we’re utilizing right now.
Obviously, this fight isn’t going to be over and done with this week. Next week, we’ll keep pushing and the week after that we’ll keep pushing. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you an update with what we’re doing right now in real time – and most importantly, why we’re doing it.
As always, please feel free to forward this along to anybody who you think may be interested. This law is going to affect us all (it already is) and it’s important that all Americans have a chance to weigh in and make their feelings known. Thanks again for your willingness to be involved.